Leeches, fed on swine infected with hog cholera, contained virus for as long as 87 days after their infective blood meals. In three instances, infected leeches apparently transmitted hog cholera virus to susceptible swine in the process of normal feeding.
Myxoma virus persisted in leeches for as long as 154 days after the ingestion of a blood meal from rabbits with myxomatosis.
Leeches fed consecutively, first on swine with hog cholera, and later on rabbits with myxomatosis, acquired both viruses. In such dually infected leeches, the hog cholera virus persisted for as long as 122 days and the myxoma virus for as long as 110 days, the longest periods tested.
Leeches fed consecutively, first on rabbits with myxomatosis, and later on swine with hog cholera, acquired only the myxoma virus. Hog cholera virus could not be demonstrated in such dually fed leeches.
Myxoma and hog cholera viruses appeared to be present in about equivalent amounts in the anterior and posterior thirds of the bodies of infected leeches.
Myxoma and hog cholera viruses were present in the bloody gut contents of infected leeches but were not demonstrable in the body tissues of these leeches.
It seems from the findings presented that leeches are not biological carriers of either myxoma or hog cholera virus but instead carry these two agents mechanically in their gastrointestinal tracts. In doing this, they appear to protect the viruses from various deleterious chemical and physical influences to which they would have been exposed in the open.
It is speculated that leeches could play a role in nature in perpetuating the blood-borne viruses of certain diseases in which close association with bodies of fresh water is of epidemiological importance.